To mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the National Minority AIDS Council and Housing Works, with support from the Ford Foundation, have released a new report titled "Mass Incarceration, Housing Instability and HIV/AIDS," examining the intersection between incarceration, homelessness and HIV vulnerability, especially within the African American community.
Read Paul Kawata's Huffington Post article on the report here: www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-kawata/poverty-homelessness-hiv_b_2625669.html
African Americans make up only 12 percent of America's population, but account for 44 percent of new HIV infections and almost half of all AIDS diagnoses in the United States, with black gay men facing the heaviest disease burden of any group. At the same time, despite similar rates of criminal conduct, African American males are more than six times as likely to be incarcerated as their white counterparts. Loss of income, poor health, interruption of intimate relationships, and pre-existing social disadvantages coalesce to make it difficult for many people living with HIV to secure or maintain adequate housing. Histories of incarceration only exacerbate these pressures further.
While it has long been understood that incarceration increases an individual's vulnerability to HIV, many have assumed that this is the result of increased risk behavior or exposure while in prison. In reality, the evidence suggests that it is housing instability and the interruption of medical care resulting from incarceration that has the greatest impact on HIV vulnerability. With 25 percent of the world's imprisoned population, our nation's culture of mass incarceration has created a devastating and self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, homelessness, and criminal justice involvement that undermines our ability to successfully combat the spread of HIV, especially among African Americans.
The newly released report includes recommendations to address this cycle of vulnerability, such as:
- reforming our criminal justice and sentencing practices;
- allowing formerly incarcerated persons access to federal housing and homeless assistance programs;
- removing post-incarceration barriers to subsistence income and health insurance;
- improving pre-release planning for inmates living with HIV or AIDS; and
- evaluating the effectiveness of housing-based interventions for formerly incarcerated persons living with HIV.
Click here to read the report: nmac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Incarceration-Report-FINAL_2-6-13_Two.pdf